9 Powerful Ways to Lead by Example
There are few things more infuriating than a hypocritical leader. We all know the boss who regularly leaves the office early for personal plans, but demands everyone stay until exactly 5 P.M. and the manager who assigns you impossible tasks, then shirks responsibility when the outcome is (predictably) less than desired.
When you say one thing and do another, your team will ask, “If he doesn’t do it, why should I?” Your hypocrisy fosters resentment, suspicion, mistrust and doubt. To be a truly effective leader, you must lead by example.
Leadership only succeeds when it shows others how to extend and push for greatness. Your team should look at you and think, “If she can do it, I can, too.” True leaders do not whip their team into shape from the back of the pack -- that’s a dictatorship. They lead the charge, while carrying their share of the weight.
Here’s nine ways you can lead the charge as a better leader:
1. Get your hands dirty.
When you sit back and dictate to others what you want done without being willing to do it yourself, you are setting yourself up to be hated. Absolutely no one likes doing the dirty work. But if the leader in the room is willing to get up to their elbows in something that’s “not their job,” not one other person will be able to complain about it.
2. Take responsibility.
The best leaders in the world strategically pass the credit and take the blame. When you blame your team for a failure, you make your team defensive and wary, and sabotage any trust you may have built. Exemplary leaders accept personal responsibility for their company’s failures and pass credit when it is given in order to build trust, contain anxiety in their team, and model humility and graciousness.
3. Listen to your team members.
Your team is your most valuable asset, and ignoring their brilliance is a huge mistake. Model to your team what it looks like to care: ask them questions, try to understand, and encourage an open door policy. You’ll receive far more than you give, and model healthy dialogue.
4. Acknowledge -- and even celebrate -- failure.
If your leadership model says, “Failure is not an option,” you may be setting yourself up for not only more failure, but a culture of disappointment and fear. Failure is a vital process of invention, innovation, and risk-taking. If you want a truly extraordinary team, celebrate failure and even encourage it in a controlled, experimental environment.
5. Create solutions.
In the same vein of failure, don’t dwell on what went wrong. Punishing your team or harping on them for failures will only discourage them from innovation. Look at the failure closely in post-failure feedback sessions, so you can find solutions from the failure as you encourage others to do the same.
6. Take care of yourself.
It all starts with being healthy. Too often companies expect their employees to overwork themselves and devote themselves wholly to a project. But balance is key: model taking breaks, exercising, eating well, and getting away from the office from time to time. Encourage your team to live mentally and physically balanced lives and you will support your company’s success ten-fold.
7. Be truthful.
Honesty really is the best policy. Lying -- and even withholding information -- affects everything and everyone: relationships, decision-making, communication, and more. Team members start to second-guess themselves and the organization, and stop listening. Though honesty is difficult at times, your honesty as a leader is vital to maintaining organizational health.
8. Follow your own rules.
This should go without saying, but do as I say, not as I do is a horrible leadership motto. Don’t bend the rules because you’re the leader. Your dishonesty and hypocrisy will immediately cancel out any authority you’re trying to convey. If you’re not willing to follow the rules, why should anyone else? Establish rules, and stick to them.
9. Establish a baseline of excellence.
If you don’t want mediocrity from your team, don’t be mediocre. Whatsoever you do will be watched and emulated, so start with demanding excellence from yourself. Your team will notice, and do their best to keep up.
Leading by example is the fastest way to train a team. When you hold yourself to a high standard, your team will look to gain your approval by doing the same. They will rise to our expectations of excellence, integrity, and respect when you give them the same. And when your team is composed of excellence, you are sure to see success.